The title of this series is Gospel A-Z, not Gospel ABC or 123, but A-Z.
At the very beginning of the series I said that’s because Galatians is a book for believers, from beginning to end, not just for Christians starting out. It’s not a book about the first steps of how to lead a non-believer to Christ. It’s not just about what you need to know to get started. It’s about everything a believer needs to know from the beginning to the end of their life, from A to Z.
The gospel isn’t just the way to enter into the kingdom, it’s the way to live in the kingdom. It’s the way we grow. It’s the way we are transformed.
So Galatians is a very practical book filled with principles of what living like a Christian means.
It was necessary for Paul to write this book because there were those who were threatening to redefine what it means to be a Christian. Even worse, they were redefining the Gospel of Christ.
1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—
7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
In order to get them back on track he wrote the book of Galatians which has three big ideas in it. The first has to do with authority. The second with salvation and the third with holiness.
If we understand these three main points then we understand the book of Galatians.
So, the first big idea of Galatians has to do with…
In Paul’s day there were two sets of teachers, both of which had arguments for why you should listen to them. Both sets said they were teaching the truth and both were likely sincere but their messages contradicted each other.
The situation today is even worse. We don’t just have a choice between two, but many, many more. The problem is that most of the different views come from people with academic degrees, who are sincere and beleivable.
Who should we listen to? The issue is one of authority.
So how does Paul solve the issue? Probably not how you would expect because he doesn’t appeal to the logic of his argument, or even necessarily to common sense. Instead, he appeals to His own authority given to him by Christ Jesus.
For most of the first two chapters Paul talks about his conversion and his relationships with Peter, Barnabas, and the other Christians. He talks about himself.
But the bottom line is that Paul wants us to listen to Him because of who taught Him.
1:11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul has authority. Listen to him, because his authority comes from Christ.
Paul’s opponents might have had tradition, or even logic, on their side but they had not been given a personal revelation by Jesus Christ. Paul hadn’t been taught by any human being, but by God Himself.
And Paul expects Christians to accept his authority. He expects us to take His words as God’s words. And when Paul first founded the church in Galatia that’s exactly what they did. Chapter 4:14…
4:14 You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself.
Paul expects us to take his view. Chapter 5:10…
5:10 I myself am persuaded in the Lord you will not accept any other view…
Why? Because Paul was taught, not by any person, but by Jesus Christ himself.
And we, too, are expected to accept Paul’s views because the recorded words of the apostles are God’s words.
Red letter editions of the Bible are fine, but if you believe Jesus’ words are more authoritative than Paul’s you misunderstand what Jesus himself taught.
After sending out the disciples to preach, in Luke 10:16 He said,
“Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
So Paul’s words on authority are that we should listen to Him because He has been given that authority by Jesus.
And, remember, the authority of Paul and the other apostles is different than any authority a person might claim to have today.
If God is still speaking to people in the exact same way he spoke to Paul then how do we know who to listen to? Only by comparing what they say with the word of God.
And that’s what Paul does. He takes what the false teachers were saying and compares it with what Jesus told Him. We don’t have the physical Jesus but we do have His words, and the words of the apostles so we can do the same thing.
There is no higher authority than the words of God in Scripture. And realizing this narrows down our choices for who to listen to.
Scripture alone is what we can trust. That’s where we start as new believers but it is also a principle we apply throughout our entire lives.
Secondly, what does Galatians say about…
The central question here is “How can sinners be reconciled to God?” How can we be at peace with God? Is it through human effort? Is it by being circumcised and keeping the law?
Are we saved by faith plus obedience? Do we contribute to salvation? Has Jesus just made it possible to be saved but now it’s up to us?
These questions are all asking the same thing. Are we saved by works?
Paul says “No” it’s only through Jesus’ death on the cross.
3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
You saw Jesus crucified! Don’t you get it? Paul gets it. Chapter 6:14…
6:14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Why is the cross so important? It’s because of what Jesus accomplished on it. Chapter 1:4 says Jesus Christ…
…gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age.
Jesus gave himself for us on the cross and rescued us from evil. He took our place. Chapter 2:20 says…
2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Again, Christ gave himself for us. He took our place and now lives in us! Chapter 3:13…
3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
Christ transferred God’s judgement upon himself. He is our substitute. So what is left for us to do to be saved? Only believe. Only trust in what Christ has already done. This is what grace means.
And Paul strongly denies adding anything to grace. Chapter 2:21…
2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
It’s not grace plus works. It’s grace plus nothing. But this is difficult to accept. It’s offensive to prideful people when you tell them there isn’t anything we can do to earn salvation.
But this is the gospel. We are more wicked than we realize but the good news is we are more loved than we can imagine. Christians have faith in the love of God.
And it is exactly this faith in what Scripture teaches about God’s love that unites true believers in Christ. True Christians have a common faith in the gospel and we are united in our insistence of salvation being completely by faith in Christ.
We are untied with those who had faith in the past. Chapter 3:7…
3:7 You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons.
3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs.
Abraham’s real family is made up of those that have faith in Christ and those that have faith are those that belong to Christ.
So, if we have faith we are untied with those that have gone before us but we are also united with those who have faith in the present. Chapter 3:26 says…
3:26-28 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. 27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.
28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.
When Jesus was asked about marriage in heaven He responded by saying their won’t be marriage in heaven. That’s because marriage is a shadow of an even greater relationship that we have with Christ and the church.
We may have a certain unity with our fellow Americans, with our spouse, or even with others of the same gender, but this unity is just a shadow of the real thing.
The unity we have with those who are trusting in the gospel is what’s even better.
In chapter 6 Paul calls the church the Israel of God. Chapter 6:16 says…
6:16 May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy even to the Israel of God!
Peace, or we could say unity, comes through following the standard Paul has laid out for us regarding the truth of the Gospel. And the truth of the gospel is that we are saved by faith, not by works! That’s what unifies us!
OK, so God through Christ, through Paul, through the Book of Galatians has settled the issue of authority and salvation.
Now what about the issue of…
Holiness is an old fashioned term that means devotion to God. It means living a life that is dedicated to God and Paul has a lot to say about it but there are mainly just two things…
1) Does freedom in Christ erase the need for holiness?
A natural assumption is that if we are saved by faith alone, then we are free to live however we want, right?
Paul agrees that we have freedom, but not freedom to sin. Chapter 5:1…
5:1 For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
The yoke of slavery we are free from is trying to save yourself. We are set free from the impossible task of trying to earn our salvation. We can’t do it. We can never be good enough and all our futile efforts lead to is despair.
We have been set free from despair. We have been set free to serve and love with unselfish motives. 5:13 says…
5:13 For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.
Being set free from trying to save ourselves set us free from being in competition with others. So we no longer have to prove our worth by being better than others and are free to genuinely love and serve.
Chapter 5:14 says…
5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.
So being set free doesn’t erase the need for holiness, it sets us free to be more holy than ever before.
Now, the other question Paul answers about holiness is “How do we do it?”
2) How do we become holy?
Paul says that we must crucify the flesh.
5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
We are holy in one sense but in another we are still becoming holy. 5:25 says…
5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
See, those that belong to Christ continue to seek holiness and live by the Spirit. Those that belong to Christ are led by the Spirit. They walk with the Spirit.
The Christian life is active, not passive.
In other words, we are not helpless when it comes to becoming more holy. Paul uses the analogy of sowing seed. We must sow good seed if we expect to bear good fruit. Chapter 6:8…
6:8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
Now, when Paul talks about sowing seed he doesn’t mean just planning to sow seed. He doesn’t mean just preparing to sow seed. He means actually sowing the seed.
Coming up with a plan to sow seed isn’t sowing seed. Now it’s necessary to come up with good ideas, but if the seed isn’t actually sown there will never be fruit. We must act.
In other words, we should never use God’s grace as an excuse to be lazy. If we don’t sow seed we shouldn’t expect a harvest of godly fruit.
So, summarizing Galatians…
The answer to the question of authority is Jesus Christ through His apostles.
Christ personally choose and authorized the apostles, including Paul, to teach in His name.
What Jesus began during his lifetime he continued through His apostles and He intends for us to submit to their Scriptural authority as being His authority.
We have no authority, other than Christ and what He directly taught the apostles and this simplifies things for us in trying to figure out who to believe.
The answer to the question of salvation is Jesus Christ through His cross.
Jesus Christ came not only to talk about saving people but to actually save. On the cross He bore the penalty of our sin so we are saved by His works, not ours.
And it is faith in what Christ has done that results in a unity among believers greater than anything this world has to offer.
The answer to the question of holiness is Jesus Christ through His Spirit.
Christ not only died, rose and returned to heaven, but sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Galatians 4:6 says “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”
This Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who dwells in every believer. And one of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit is to conform us to the image of Christ, to form Christ in us by bringing forth good fruit in our lives.
Christ, through His Spirit, makes us holy. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work at it. The Christian life is a battle. It is a struggle against our human tendency to try and save ourselves.
Daily we struggle to believe and apply the gospel. The gospel isn’t just for new Christians. It is for all Christians from A-Z, from the beginning to the end of our lives.
We have the gospel on good authority. Trust in it and let it make you holy.